By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Cologne – French national team star and captain Evan Fournier called FIBA to change the EuroBasket program so that players will be able to have more time available to rest and recover amid a hectic schedule that includes high-intensity back-to-back matches, sometimes with less than 24 hours between them.
“It’s the EuroBasket and we have back-to-backs. Back-to-backs are very hard. And back-to-backs in the NBA and back-to-back in the EuroBasket is two different things,” Fournier told Eurohoops. “There’s less games here so it’s more intense. When you play at 20:30 you usually sleep around 3:00. It’s a real big challenge. To be fair, it’s the same thing for everyone. It would be great if FIBA changed that to allow us to have more rest in between games.”
Fournier made these comments following Monday’s afternoon practice, the day after France overcame a challenging Hungary team to improve to 2-1 in Group B. On Saturday, Les Bleus got a hard-earned victory vs. Lithuania behind Fournier’s 27 points. He played 33 and 27 minutes respectively in these matches.
The New York Knicks swingman has played dozens of back-to-back games throughout his NBA career so far and he’s used to getting onto the floor for a lot of minutes in consecutive days. But there’s no comparison between a regular season match in the NBA and the EuroBasket Group Stage.
Five games are played in a span of seven days to determine the top four out of six teams in each the Group that will advance to the knockout phase. The final standings position may matter a lot on the long run to potentially avoid any powerhouse opponents. It’s a high-stake situation in a very short period of time and matches can have the character of a “do-or-die” early on.
There’s also the toughness of each clash, parly also because the rules in Europe are more lenient when it comes to fouls and body contact. While talking to Eurohoops, veteran NBA coach Mike Brown expressed his amazement with how physical the EuroBasket game is.
“We have less games here,” Fournier said. “Every game is more important. From the very first minute until the last one you play very hard. Physically, it’s a big challenge. We are about to have our second back-to-back. So four games in five nights? It’s tough.”
Fournier and France are preparing to face Bosnia and Herzegovina in Round 4. It will be a rematch of a 2023 World Cup Qualifiers game where Bosnia triumphed over the reigning Olympic silver medalists in Sarajevo.
This provides a bit of an extra incentive for Fournier and company but he believes the overall priorities for his team should be different.
“There’s going to be a it of a mindset where we want to get them back,” Fournier admitted. “But the most important thing since we are qualified is how we play. Are we going to develop a game that we can take in the eighthfinals and be confident. The most important is how we play.”
“Nobody wants to lose to a team twice. But it’s not the main goal tomorrow to… “wow we’re gonna kill them,” Fournier joked. “We have to play our game and develop good habits. Be disciplined.”
Bosnia was responsible for delivering one of the biggest upsets in the EuroBasket thanks to their win over reigning champion Slovenia. They forced Luka Doncic, Goran Dragic and the rest of reigning champions to their first defeat after 11 straight EuroBasket victories.
This result was described as a “shocker,” a “stunner” and other things. Fournier, who hadn’t watch the game when asked about it, wouldn’t go there.
“This is is no surprise,” Fournier said. “They play with a lot of heart. It’s like their spirts are lifted when they play for the national tam. They almost missed the EuroBasket because of problems like budget etc. They have something to play for. They want to make their fans proud. And I think it’s beautiful. It feels like they play with an extra motivation.”
France has a lot of potential left untapped and Fournier hopes that his team will continue building to really raise the level when the knockout matches start in Berlin.
“We have ways to go. But you know, it’s a tough Group. Even a team like Slovenia… nobody is really dominating. Every game has its own story, it’s different. That’s why I keep saying that what matters is how to keep playing better. At the end of the day, the competition starts in Berlin. We want to get better, we want to learn from our mistakes and we’re going to take it from here.”
Photo: FIBA Basketball